Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thank you and Farewell

This will be my last and final blog post. Due to my work schedule and private life,
I sadly must bring this blog to a close.

It is not a decision I've made lightly, but it is necessary for the time being.

I will still write my book reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

An incredible thank you to every single person for your years of loyalty
and steadfastness. I've had the very best time imaginable.
I've met the most gracious and wonderful friends as a result of starting this site
many years ago.

I will keep the website up just no more posts.

Kimberly Eve

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Review: Mr. Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense by Jenny Uglow

Edward Lear lived a vivid, fascinating, energetic life, but confessed, 'I hardly enjoy any one thing on earth while it is present.' He was a man in a hurry, 'running about on railroads' from London to country estates and boarding steamships to Italy, Corfu, India and Palestine. He is still loved for his 'nonsenses', from startling, joyous limericks to great love songs like 'The Owl and the Pussy Cat' and 'The Dong with a Luminous Nose', and he is famous, too, for his brilliant natural history paintings, landscapes and travel writing. But although Lear belongs solidly in the age of Darwin and Dickens - he gave Queen Victoria drawing lessons, and his many friends included Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelite painters - his genius for the absurd and his dazzling word-play make him a very modern spirit. He speaks to us today.

Lear was a man of great simplicity and charm: children adored him, yet his humour masked epilepsy, depression and loneliness. Jenny Uglow's beautifully illustrated biography, full of the colour of the age, brings us his swooping moods, passionate friendships and restless travels/ Above all it shows how this uniquely gifted man lived all his life on the boundaries of rules and structures, disciplines and desires - an exile of the heart.  
Published October 5th 2017 by Faber & Faber
  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0571269540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571269549

'But stay here I won't, to be demoralised by years of mud & fog & gnats and rheumatism & small beer & stupid boors and coalfires and chloramorbusses and income taxes and Calvinists and steel forks and midnight atmospheres all the year round - I have had enough of it, & forthwith I am growing moustaches in sign of going elsewhere'. (Edward Lear)

Illustration for More Nonsense by Edward Lear

I found myself enjoying the company of Mr. Lear while getting to know him in Jenny Uglow's exquisite biography. He suffered from epilepsy and spoke with a lisp. He was always well aware of what he considered to be his shortcomings. He knew he was not an attractive looking man, plain, stout and attracted to men! Now, during the nineteenth-century, nobody came out and verbally said 'gay' or 'homosexual' his family and close friends in his inner circle knew of his 'male crushes' but it seemed to be unspoken.  

While reading Mr. Lear's diary and correspondence excerpts, that appeared within chapters throughout this book, I got the sense he led a life of chosen isolation as a way of protecting himself from pain and outside intrusions. His humour was wonderful. He sometimes made me belly laugh because he was quite funny and silly which I always appreciate. However, I couldn't shake this overwhelming undercurrent of sadness about him that resonated off the pages. For instance, he knew he 'needed to get a wife' but fear would stop him from proposing. He was afraid of passing on his epilepsy to any children that might be born. Also, it would've been a marriage of convenience and he would have kept up his 'male' relationships no doubt. Nevertheless, he never proposed to any female friends even though there were several opportunities. 

Beachy Head by Edward Lear

Edward Lear led a life of movement and momentum. He was a naturally gifted landscape artist. He loved nature and traveled throughout Europe,always keeping a diary, usually traveling with male friends: Alfred Tennyson and Frank Lushington (Lear's unreciprocated male crush).  I loved the travel chapters and the friendship chapters. He knew many 'now famous' British authors and artists of the day. The chapters covering Tennyson, Lushington, and his nonsense writings are some of my favorites. 

The Owl and the Pussycat

Edward Lear made a small living from his paintings he sold to galleries, sometimes contributions from friends. His nonsense limericks and poems were published in A Book of Nonsense that had three editions and sold 4,000 copies during his lifetime. Interestingly enough, he never became friends with another nonsense writer of the day Lewis Carroll. They knew of each other and had mutual friends but never met each other. Lewis Carroll is mentioned in a few chapters as well. There was a sweet story of how Edward Lear wrote his most famous poem, The Owl and the Pussycat for a little girl who was the daughter of friends of his. Lear would show up for dinner with friends become bored with the discussion of the news or politics and end up chatting to their sons and or daughters. After a brief chat with one little girl, Lear went home and wrote this story about interspecies relationships! It is a love poem you know! 

To purchase Mr. Lear by Jenny Uglow  Amazon UK

To purchase in the United States (it is not published in the U.S. yet but you can Pre-order),

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Halloween Post: My thoughts on A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf!

I have been reading my way through the novels of Virginia Woolf. Now with Halloween upon us tomorrow, I thought about a ghost story of a different kind...

What if you lived in an old house that you loved and knew was haunted? Not sure who the ghost was or why it stayed in your house? Perhaps, your life triggered a memory for that ghost. What do you mean ghosts don't exist? Oh, yes they do!  They watch us; they see and hear us all the time. They appear to us via sound, imagery and smell but you must remain aware and open minded to experience their visitations.

“Here we left it,” she said. And he added, “Oh, but here tool” “It’s upstairs,” she murmured. “And in the garden,” he whispered. “Quietly,” they said, “or we shall wake them.”

As I said, A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf is not a novel or a novella even it is one of her short stories published in a collection called Monday and Tuesday in 1921.  It is only a few pages in length. I am deeply touched by this short story. At the heart of it, is love. Love experienced between a man and woman, a married couple, who lived in the house before the author's current occupant; the female married protagonist.  The ghostly couple had the best-married years of life here together and have left their hearts here together along with their unforgotten treasured memories. The love between the current couple spurs their ghostly visitations and Virginia Woolf's conversations between the ghostly couple are just beautiful.

“Here we slept,” she says. And he adds, “Kisses without number.” “Waking in the morning—” “Silver between the trees—” “Upstairs—” “In the garden—” “When summer came—” “In winter snowtime—” The doors go shutting far in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart.

In this very short tale, any reader would be touched by the deep sentimentality and heartbreaking honestly of the true connection between man and woman (in this case) and the blessing of a happy life together. One which abides through the ages.

Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf with their dog Pinka

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Last Bronte: The Intimate Memoir of Arthur Bell Nicholls by S.R. Whitehead: A Review

He was Mr Brontë's right hand man and Charlotte's husband.

He fell in love with two sisters and revered a third while, to the troubled brother, he tried to be a friend. Arthur Bell Nicholls was the intimate witness to all the triumphs and tragedies of the Brontës' adult lives and The Last Brontë is his testament.

PaperbackFirst328 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Ashmount Press
ISBN13 9780955283

I always struggle with my reviews. I want to always be fair and I try to remain open minded. Especially, when it comes to real figures such as The Bronte Sisters, their masterpieces, and of course, Mr. Nicholls.  I am a very strong admirer of Charlotte Bronte for as much of a strong-willed, opinionated woman as we can gather she was from her letters.  I have not researched into A.B. Nicholls life, so I don't know lf his letters survive.  The Last Bronte by S.R. Whitehead is a novel and he does wonderfully bring Arthur Bell Nicholls to life. His staunch religious beliefs, his working for Mr. Bronte, his friendships with all three sisters all found within these pages. It was interesting and very refreshing to read the male perspective for a change.  I enjoyed the novel very much and the author has a  lovely writing style. However, I was disappointed not to find a bibliography list, there was no notes section whatsoever, either. These two would have been very helpful for readers. Since there are lots of religious prayers cited within conversations between Nicholls and Bronte members. Also, the letters between Charlotte Bronte and Mr. Nicholls were wonderful to read but it started me thinking as to whether or not any of his letters survived? It would have been so nice to have a bibliography or notes section to flip back to. 
Arthur Bell Nicholls study as it looks today 
The Bronte Parsonage Museum
The Bronte Society

One of the facts we know about Arthur Bell Nicholls was he was the husband of Charlotte Bronte. Sadly, they were only together for nine months when she died early in her pregnancy. S.R. Whitehead, author, created a very interesting story line between Anne Bronte and Nicholls. In the novel, he falls for Anne romantically but he marries Charlotte for reasons I thought were a bit sad really. I don't want to ruin anything for readers but the marriage between Charlotte and Arthur doesn't happen until late in the novel and well let's just say if Anne Bronte is your favorite you will be very happy!  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Review of The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

I said my story had many beginnings, and the day the camera arrived was one of them. After all, without the camera, there wouldn’t have been any photographs. Without the camera, I wouldn’t have a story to tell. . . .
1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.
One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 1, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006249984X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062499844

Magical..., Enchanting..., Sublime ..., are just some of the words I could use to begin.  It's all true!   

Whether or not you are familiar with the story of the Cottingley fairies from the nineteenth-century doesn't really matter. I needed a book to read that would put me in a peaceful mood and a contemplative one at that. This is it for me!  Truly, The Cottingley Secret is a retelling of the controversial events of Frances Cottingley from Yorkshire, England and the very interesting photographs of a little girl in a wood playing with fairies!  

I didn't know the story at all but I have seen the photographs online over the years and always wondered what really happened. Author, Hazel Gaynor with incredible imagination and foresight has created two story lines connecting families across two decades.  I was hooked from the opening paragraph.  

When I hear the word Yorkshire, I think nature and beauty but I also immediately think of The Bronte Sisters.  What I loved about The Cottingley Secret was that it introduced me to a part of Yorkshire unfamiliar to me; Cottingley. I appreciate the author's adept usage of Yorkshire terms i.e., nowt meaning nothing  and a lot of thou's and thee's.  I have some friends in and around Yorkshire who I contacted to ask if the slang usage or terminology was authentic. Luckily for me, I was told a firm "yes".  

Also, I am relieved that Hazel Gaynor did not feel the urge to wrap up Olivia's present day story line in a big red bow with a happily ever after ending. I don't want to give anything away but there is a love interest named, Ross, whom I immediately loved.  You see, dear readers, sometimes in life you are not always promised a happy ending. For some people some obstacles cannot be cleared. Sometimes you have to start with friendship and see where that leads. 

I actually had a childhood experience that involved fairies that I never truly talked about. Suffice it to say, I wholeheartedly believe in them and they do exist. A huge thank you to Hazel Gaynor and Frances Griffiths for reminding me of my past childhood experiences. 

I hope everyone who wants to read a truly, beautifully written and engaging story, gives The Cottingley Secret a chance. You will not be disappointed. 

To purchase the book in the United States,  Amazon US

To purchase the book in the United Kingdom,  Amazon UK

For the author's website,  Hazel Gaynor

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A review of Beauty In Thorns by Kate Forsyth

A spellbinding reimagining of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set amongst the wild bohemian circle of Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets. 

The Pre-Raphaelites were determined to liberate art and love from the shackles of convention. 

Ned Burne-Jones had never had a painting lesson and his family wanted him to be a parson. Only young Georgie Macdonald – the daughter of a Methodist minister – understood. She put aside her own dreams to support him, only to be confronted by many years of gossip and scandal. 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was smitten with his favourite model, Lizzie Siddal. She wanted to be an artist herself, but was seduced by the irresistible lure of laudanum. 

William Morris fell head-over-heels for a ‘stunner’ from the slums, Janey Burden. Discovered by Ned, married to William, she embarked on a passionate affair with Gabriel that led inexorably to tragedy. 

Margot Burne-Jones had become her father’s muse. He painted her as Briar Rose, the focus of his most renowned series of paintings, based on the fairy-tale that haunted him all his life. Yet Margot longed to be awakened to love. 

Bringing to life the dramatic true story of love, obsession and heartbreak that lies behind the Victorian era’s most famous paintings, Beauty in Thorns is the story of awakenings of all kinds.

The Sleeping Beauty by Edward Burne-Jones, Date: 1870 - 1890

There is nothing basic about Beauty in Thorns. Kate Forsyth has achieved the impossible! I love her incredibly dreamlike imagination and passionate research. She has brought to life three artistic couples and one daughter: Ned Burne-Jones with his wife Georgie and their daughter Margaret (Margot) Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his wife Lizzie Siddal, William Morris and his wife Jane Burden. It is as if she has pulled them through the mists of time speaking to me with the turn of every page. I felt as if I were present to witness all the wonderful and bitter times of their lives. For instance,  romance, courtship, marriage, birth, death with a few affairs thrown in! 

Told from the female perspective and broken up into five parts, Beauty in Thorns also introduces readers to the paintings of Ned Burne-Jones (Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones) covering the theme of sleeping beauty through the real life paintings of The Briar Rose Series with Arthurian elements. 

There is so much I want to cover and because I don't want to give anything away, I must hold back. It is hard for me to do since I love these men and women so very much. I get excited and ramble on and on. 

It was nothing but a delight to read about the personal and romantic lives of the women this time first and foremost then the men and artists whom they put up with so much from.  The love triangle between William Morris his wife Jane Burden or Janey Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti is told from her perspective which has never been written in this form before. You think you know what happened but this is what I mean by the importance of research. With fresh eyes cast upon it, Kate Forsyth brings forth some surprises. 

I became completely swept away with Janey's life and desires because I saw her as a whole woman for the first time. Included in this triangle is, of course, the frail, sickly yet not so tragic Lizzie Siddal. I am so proud of Kate Forsyth for having the courage to write and present Lizzie as a flesh, blood and bone woman suffering from a  not so known then disease putting up with the grumbling love of her life, Gabriel Rossetti. Oh yes, he could be charming and brilliant but also suffered through his own demons as we all do. 
La Belle Iseult by William Morris, 1858, Jane Morris painted as Guinevere

"Janey had never really felt safe, not anywhere. She looked at Topsy. She could not speak. He knelt before her, taking one of her cold, clenched hands; I do love you most terribly. Won't you marry me? Let me look after you? She shook her head. 
I don't expect you to love me like I love you. I know that would be too hard. If you were cold or hungry or in danger...don't you see? If you married me, I could look after you. We could be comfortable together like we've been these past months. 
They had been comfortable together. She had liked it very much, embroidery, pretty flowers, listening to his poetry, drinking  a glass of golden sherry with a pot roast he had ordered in from the landlady. 
He had begun to pace, his hands clenched behind his back. 'I'd build you a the country, with a garden and apple trees and roses...Maybe we could have children one day, little girls that look like you...
She thought of lying with him. They would be a strange couple. Her feet would stick out past his like her father's did over the edge of his mattress. And he was so broad and square. He'd be heavy on her. But the bed would be soft and the sheets would be crisp and clean like new snow. And he was a gentle man; for all his bearishness. He would be kind to her. And she'd be safe. 
Janey cleared her throat. 'Are ye sure? I ain't yer kind.' 
'You are my kind,' Topsy said passionately. 'Do you not love poetry and art and music and green growing things just as much as I do? Do you think it matters you are poor? I have money enough for both of us. It's the beautiful shining soul of you that I love not who your father is or where you grew up.' A lump in her throat. 
He came and took her hands 'I'd do my best to make you happy, Janey...
Tears and smiles together. 'If ye're really sure...
I have never been so sure of anything. 
He kissed her hands and then kissed her mouth. She nestled into his arms, with her head on his shoulder, thinking He's such a kind man, such a good man. I'm sure I'll come to love him in time."   ( Pages 140-142, PT. II-Ch.6, I Cannot Paint You-Winter 1857-58).

I fell in love with William Morris the man with a huge heart held within a rotund body. His creativity knew no bounds. He loved wholeheartedly and gave of himself in every manner. All he wanted was that same complete love in return. He was funny and shy at times; loved from  afar but what he could create with his hands through his poems, books, tapestries, wallpapers, etc., nobody even comes close today.  A wonderful teddy bear of a man, I would love to cuddle all night. (move over Janey if you don't want him, I will take him). 

As the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Burne-Jones progressed; two children are born through the years, grown up to marry and have children themselves. We see Ned and Georgie as grandparents. Kate Forsyth focuses on daughter, Margaret Burne-Jones whom she calls, Margot.  Now, I have always been fascinated with Margaret and not very much in letters, diaries, survives. What is archived throughout museums does not cover every aspect of a person's life. She was the daughter of one of the most prominent painters and artists of the time. We meet the infant Margot, the young girl who is the absolute light of Ned's life. Overprotective is her father and so full of emotions himself that the idea of anyone hurting his little girl makes her growing up and finding love a bit difficult at times. All daughters who love and adore their dad understand how hard it is for both to come to terms with becoming an adult. You don't want to let them go quite yet. Still, you know they must spread their wings and fly. You stand ever close by in case they start to fall.  Don't worry Ned I'm sure you survived it all just fine. Even if you didn't, or emotionally struggled, you had your brilliant paintings of which daughter Margaret is included. Thank goodness for both of them that the rock of the family was wife and mother, Georgie Burne-Jones!  What a spitfire, powerhouse of a woman. She reminded me so much of my grandmother with that same petite frame, and drive to care for home and hearth no matter what life throws at you.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Alfred Lord Tennyson's Farringford Estate is now open to the public on the Isle of Wight!

Farringford The Home of Tennyson on the Isle of Wight
Image belongs to Farringford Estate 2017 

I just wanted to share a quick post with you all.

On August 23rd, 2017, Farringford, the home of Victorian Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, officially re-opened to the public after being restored in detail the way it was during the time Alfred Tennyson lived there with his wife Lady Tennyson and two sons Hallam and Lionel Tennyson.
The family occupied the house during the years 1853 up until his death in 1892. They were some of the happiest years spent in the home.

The Tennyson family gardens have been restored as well. The tour includes home and gardens.

According to the Farringford Estate,

"Admission to the house and grounds is PRE-BOOKED TIMED ENTRY ONLY! Tours of the house run twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday.

Please call 01983 752500 to reserve your place." 

For more information, please visit the website of Farringford House  

Since I live in the United States, I would be eternally grateful to anyone who tours Farringford and shares their experiences here with me!  I will visit the home but not for another few years.

Thank you and Farewell

This will be my last and final blog post. Due to my work schedule and private life, I sadly must bring this blog to a close. It is no...